In the middle of Printemps 2015, a student strike opposing the Couillard’s government austerity measures and the planned TransCanada oil pipeline, the Québec student movement is in the process of reorganizing itself.
Since 2001, student politics in Québec has generally been organized around two different wings: a radical wing, represented by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), and a more moderate wing, represented by the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ). Over the past several years, however, many student associations have held referenda to disaffiliate from FEUQ and FECQ, citing a lack of internal democracy and transparency within the organizations.
On March 28, 2015, the Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l’Université de Montréal (FAÉCUM), representing 40,000 students at the Université de Montréal, voted to disaffiliate from the FEUQ. According to its press release, the FAECUM, at a congress of its 83 campus student association members, unanimously decided to disaffiliate from the FEUQ “and to participate in the creation of a new national [Québec] university student organization.” Through this act of disaffiliation, the FEUQ instantly lost one third of its members.
Prior to the vote, FAÉCUM’s executive committee released a seven page report on the FEUQ, which cited the disaffiliation of several members in recent years and claimed that the organization was ineffective in achieving its goals. “In our opinion,” the report concluded, “it is important to focus on the objective of a national [Québec] student association to counter the Québec government’s disengagement in education. It is important to bring student associations together on principles that are more consensual, more transparent, and more flexible. The FEUQ is no longer in a position to respond to the aspirations of its members and is no longer politically effective.”
In response, Mouvement étudiant .info, a Facebook page coming from the “radical” wing of the Québec student movement, said: “Don’t be fooled, the FAÉCUM left the FEUQ because it no longer served as a vehicle for its ascendancy within the the Québec student movement. The new organization that FAÉCUM is trying to establish is merely FEUQ 2.0 with a new look, so that FAÉCUM can continue to pull the strings behind the student movement.. The problem is not the FEUQ as such, but the quasi-imperial attitude of the FAÉCUM, which has operated for years as though the student movement revolved around itself. It is the FAÉCUM that must disappear.”
Meanwhile, four regional student associations (from Rimouski, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, and Saguenay) have released a press release announcing their intention to create a national student organization of their own, to be based on five core principles:
- “local sovereignty
- the ability to be understood by all and for all
- the capacity to form a political common front
- the primacy of profile [political visibility?] over numbers
- ease of affiliation and of disaffiliation”
The press release quotes Mathieu Roy, president of MAGE-UQTR, as citing “the predominance of Montreal associations within the existing national associations” as reason for this initiative.